5 ways to prevent sports injuries

CNN Money—August 10, 2012

Staying fit is great -- until you get hurt. Then you can end up sidelined for days or even weeks. To prevent sports injuries from happening try these five tips.

1. Weekend warriors pay the highest price
Running a 10K race or playing 18 holes is great weekend fun. If you work long hours at a desk job, though, a sudden burst of activity puts you at high risk of injury, especially in the lower back and knees, says New York City physical therapist Adam Pratomo of Hospital for Special Surgery.

That, in turn, can be costly: 50% of knee injuries require a visit to a physical therapist, doctor, or hospital. So increase intensity (pace, distance, weight, or reps) by no more than 10% per week.

3. Skip the brace
Over-the-counter braces for aching elbow, wrist, and knee joints are big sellers at $10 to $50 apiece.

But they can do more harm than good, says Pratomo. "If you wear a brace for more than a day or two, you risk weakening the muscles so they're more susceptible to injury," he says.

Wraps and tapes may be better for temporarily stabilizing a joint, but you'll need a physical therapist to show you how to do the wrap first.

5. Use the RICE treatment
Before you rush to the doc for a minor injury, use the RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) treatment for several days, says Pratomo.

Still having discomfort? Ask your doctor for a referral to a physical therapist; in a 2012 study, patients with back pain who sought early treatment from a PT recovered faster and had lower costs vs. those who delayed care. Insurance plans usually cover about a dozen physical therapy visits, enough to heal most minor injuries.

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